Thursday, 26 December 2013

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


the presents are wrapped, the larder is full, the champagne is chilling, the service of nine lessons and carols is on radio 4, Santas's progress is being followed and I don't have to be anywhere or do anything for five whole days!

Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Return Match

Last weekend Andrew's sister came to visit, bringing Dexter the puppy, an opportunity for us to return her hospitality of a few weeks ago. With two over excited dogs we felt the best bet was to let them run wild on Old Hunstanton beach.

Hunstanton was one of the towns effected by the storm surge a couple of weeks ago and this was noticeable on the beach. When we arrived we noticed the tide line covered with grass, the sea had eroded a lot of the sand dunes and in some places broken through.

Dune erosion

Some parts of the cliff had suffered too, they are made from carrstone. a soft sandstone.

One of the effects of the surge was that the mussel beds,  always visible at low tide, had completely disappeared giving a great expanse of sand for the dogs to run on. Dexter hadn't seen the sea before but Mortimer showed him the ropes.

Come on Dexter!
Whao! That was fun!
Back for more
Nothing like a seawater dip
Do we have to go?
After a good run we had lunch at the café by the lifeboat station which gets my vote as they allow dogs inside.

In the evening we went to a concert at Peterborough Cathedral. We had seen the Medieval Baebes  last year at Ely Cathedral, I love their style of singing with beautiful harmonies and a repertoire of early music. Andrew wasn't sure but had been won over by the beauty of their voices. Forget Gregorian chants (which I happen to like as well) their music has a lot of Moorish and Arabic influences and can be quite haunting. We hadn't told Carole where she was going but, she said,she really enjoyed it.

We hadn't seen the Cathedral at night before but it looked stunning.

I had an overwhelming desire to straighten the stools

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Do I have the perfect husband?

I came home yesterday, after a long,long day, to find Andrew making me truffles. Perfect.

The dusted ones are mincemeat and sloe gin and the chocolate covered are ginger and rum. Both delicious!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Soggy Lemon Cake

Years ago I cut out a recipe from a magazine and it became a firm favourite. More of a dessert than a cake it was the perfect finish to a rich meal. It came with me on a couple of  house moves and it was only recently that I realised it was missing. Several boxes were turned upside down but I still couldn't find it so I hit the internet and, thanks to Dave, I found it again. The original recipe was from Country Living magazine in 1994 but it has certainly stood the test of time.

150g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
225g softened unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
2 lemons - juice & zest
5 eggs - beaten

4 lemons - juice only
225g granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 180C  and lightly grease and line an 18cm baking tin.
Sieve the flour and baking powder together and mix with the softened butter, sugar, lemon zest & juice in a bowl. Add the eggs and mix until you have a smooth batter.
Pour into the baking tin and bake for approximately 1 hour 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out dry.
Remove from oven and cool a little before turning out and peeling off the lining paper. Place onto serving plate.
To make the topping just mix together the lemon juice and granulated sugar and spoon over the cake. The juice will sink into the cake but the sugar sits on the top creating a crunchy layer. If you have any left pour it around the cake. To get the most out of your lemons roll them on a hard surface before juicing them.
Serve with a dollop of cream - but not to people with sensitive teeth!

Soggy lemon cake

And on a completely different subject I couldn't resist this photograph of Mortimer taken by Andrew. He was under the table (Morts not Andrew) scoofing for food!

I'm sure they must have dropped something under here

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Royal Victoria Patriotic Building

A couple of weekends ago we were in London for a family clan gathering, called to celebrate the 21st birthday of our niece Rachael, who also happens to be Andrew's god-daughter.
Birthday cup cakes

Sunday morning we took the dogs on a long walk across Wandsworth Common and Mortimer was in heaven. He is very much a dogs dog (as opposed to a people dog) and couldn't believe the amount of canines there were to play with.

We could be related!
He was also quite impressed with our host's new puppy Dexter, who although only 16 weeks played constantly.

Morts didn't even mind when Dexter swung from his ear or stole his blanket to sleep on.

Blanket thief
 He loved Tooting Common and was keen to show Dexter how to have fun.

First you start with the small stuff

Then you move up!

Yea that was fun!
I'm getting quite hungry actually

Anyway during our walk we stumbled across a magnificent Victorian Gothic building, known as the 'Royal Victoria Patriotic Building', built between 1857 and 1859 with money from the Royal Patriotic fund. I have to confess to never having heard of this but did some research and discovered that the fund was set up in 1854 by Queen Victoria who was concerned for the well- being of widows and orphans of British serviceman who were dying in the Crimean War. An appeal for donations was made and £1.5 million was raised - a staggering sum at that time.
Prince Albert was the first president of the Royal Commission responsible for the administration of the fund. Grants were made for hardship cases and to place orphans in existing schools. But with such a large sum raised it was decided to found and administer two new schools, one each for boys and girls. One of which was the building we had stumbled upon. The fund continued throughout the 19th century providing support during various Victorian conflicts.

But back to the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building. Originally called the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum it was intended for 'the Education and Training of three hundred Orphan Daughters of Soldiers, Seamen and Marines who perished in the Russian War, and for those hereafter who may require like succour'. You can read the complete history here.

Over the years the building has been used for many things, finally fallen into complete disrepair by the late 1970's and nearly demolished. However it was rescued and brought back to full glory and now has a mix of flats, studios, workshops, office space, a restaurant and a theatre.


It is a beautiful building with the very best of Victorian Gothic style, I hope that the photographs capture some of the grandeur.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!

Take almost equal weight of Brussel sprouts to shallots, just a few less shallots. Try to use smallish sprouts so they can be kept whole, otherwise cut large ones in half. Put in a large roasting dish with the shallots, which should be halved.Trickle with three tablespoons of rapeseed oil, season with salt and pepper and tuck in a few sprigs of thyme.

Pop into a preheated oven (190C: GM5) and roast for about 35 minutes. Stir halfway through and take out when a bit crispy and caramelised. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Absolutely delicious - particularly if you've kept them whole as the inside of the sprouts go creamy.

Not my invention - courtesy of Hugh.

Roasted sprouts & shallots

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Going to bed with the chickens

I was a little unwell at the beginning of the week but by Tuesday was feeling better, although a little washed out. When a friend asked me how I was doing I replied "nothing that a good night's sleep wouldn't cure". "Ah!" he replied "You are going to bed with the chickens", apparently in his native Portugal this means having an early night. Andrew & I liked that so it has joined our repertoire. We were also trying to think of a phrase for an early night in English but could only think of those for an early rising.

Foreign idioms can be a hazard to anyone who, like me, is trying to get to grips with another language (I keep a notebook to hand to jot any down that I find). Some translate, the French also have 'the cherry on the cake' and 'elbow grease'

Via Tesco

but what would I do when confronted with a man with sea urchins in his pocket? Apparently not expect him to buy me a coffee - he's mean with money. Now dropping sea life into a conversation would probably alert me to a possible linguistic hurdle but to find a man 'avoir du chien' would have me  looking around and reaching in my pocket for doggy treats. Apparently it means having a certain charm.

Charming AND has a dog!

My favourite is the French 'L'heure entre chien et loup' meaning dusk. It's a favourite time of day for me as it holds a sense of anticipation edged with a slight hint of danger as the light slowly fades.

The foreign phrase I use most often is not French but Italian. I'm not given to swearing much, partly it was drummed into me as a child that it was VERY BAD but also that it is a lazy use of language. But should an oath fall from my lips then it is likely to be "Porca Miseria!"

Not much 'miseria' here!

I could list more but would love to know yours - and any useful references would be much appreciated!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

How do I know autumn has arrived?

It's not because the leaves are beginning to turn and the rosehips are in full colour.


Or that, after a late start, the apples have been harvested and only the windfalls are left.

After the harvest

Nor that the first autumn storm has hit

Friday afternoon
or soup has replaced salad.

French onion soup
No. It's that my neighbour has issued his yearly invite to his field to pick these.

Which got topped & tailed.

Ready to go
And got mixed with sugar and gin.

All shook up
And are now sitting in a dark cupboard doing their magic.

If you want quantities:

70cl gin
175g sugar
300g sloes

Sunday, 22 September 2013


If you've been followers of this blog for a while you would have realised that I have three obsessions: France; food and interior design. There are subsets to some of these - textiles for example would come under the design obsession (particularly quilts & blankets). But I've never mentioned Andrew's obsession. And there is only one.


When we returned from sailing we spent a few weeks in the Lot valley and did a lot of walking, coming across huge stacks of cut logs. Andrew took photos by the dozen. He gifted one to me the following year as a personalised Christmas card.

I'm not entirely sure when this obsession started but I think it was when we owned a draughty Victorian cottage with an open fire. We got to know our neighbour quite well and one day he came round to see Andrew, looking very shifty. A conversation in hushed tones was followed by an "I'll be out for a couple of hours". It transpired that our neighbour knew of a fallen oak tree and had permission to cut it but needed help. We'd been accepted into the community - a log source had been shared.

After that we went sailing and briefly lived in a modern house so Andrew had to be content with admiring from a distance, until we moved here and installed a multi-fuel burner. No dog walk was complete until a log had been found to add to the pile. A neighbour's log pile was monitored from afar and there was talk about buying a trailer. I started to get a little concerned when he said that our walnut tree needed a serious prune as I sensed an ulterior motive. I'm still not convinced I was wrong.

After pruning
And there were mutterings when I was taking photographs of the lichen and not of the ever growing log pile.

Walnut prunings
So imagine his delight when for his birthday in April he was given this:

It's a moisture meter for logs, it allows you to choose the optimum time to burn. Every month or so Andrew goes to the two wood piles (the logs for burning are in the wood shed) and tests them. He has been known to test the moisture content of myself & Mortimer.

Best to keep moving Mr M
Andrew doesn't read blogs but does know some of the ones I follow as I chat  about them and occasionally he looks over my shoulder. Like when Margaret wrote about her log delivery. This morning I got up early, sat with a cup of tea and caught up with some blog reading, discovering that Walt had also had a recent delivery, a fact I mentioned to Andrew over breakfast (I know - we have to get out more!). Next thing I know the laptop's on the table and Andrew is going through my browser history. Hmmmm.

As for me I still like taking the photographs.

Apple log

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Summer visitors

We were lucky this summer to have lots of friends and family to stay, some of whom we hadn't seen for a couple of years. It's nice for us as it gives us a break from working on the house and we get to go exploring. These photgraphs give a flavour of summer 2013.

Lots of these were prepared.

Which resulted in quite a lot of these.

So you weren't hungry then?
We spent time on the beach at Old Hunstanton, which Mortimer and friend Ben thoroughly enjoyed. You've no idea how tired they were that evening!

Old Hunstanton beach

We did the tour at Elgoods Brewery and gardens and managed not to get stuck in the maze. Their logo is taken from the family crest which includes a black dog holding a key. Is it me or does it really look like a big bone?
Elgoods Brewery, Wisbech

Which did inspire us to take a couple of trips to the Beers of Europe warehouse. This is a fabulous place which not only sells beers, ciders & perrys from the U.K, Europe and all over the world but also has a huge range of spirits.

Beers of Europe warehouse

On one of the few overcast days that we had we visited Ely, spending a very long time in an antiques centre.

And Andrew mastered the art of making the perfect mojito.

What's the use of a herb garden if you don't use the herbs?
So with summer nearly spent we're welcoming the first of our autumn guests in a couple of weeks. Now where shall we go?